The Division of Thoracic Surgery offers treatment for emphysema.

Emphysema is a chronic obstructive pulmonary disease that makes breathing difficult. It is caused by chronic irritation of the lung tissue. The most common cause of emphysema is smoking.

Chronic irritation of the lungs causes the lung sacks (aveoli) to break down. Large “bullae,” or “air sacks,” are formed, trapping the air. These air sacks are not used efficiently in gas exchange during normal breathing. The air sacks also compress the underlying lung and stretch the overlying muscles used in breathing.

Emphysema develops gradually over years, an symptoms may not be noticed until damage is irreversible. In those cases, treatment aims to alleviate symptoms and avoid complications.

Some patients, however, who have emphysema in the upper lobes of the lung and who have difficulty exercising may be candidates for surgical treatment.

Lung Volume Reduction Surgery (LVRS) for Emphysema

LVRS involves removing about 20% to 30% of the damaged lungs. This gives the remaining lung portions and the diaphragm more space in the chest, which makes them work more efficiently. In turn, this makes breathing easier.

LVRS is not for everyone with emphysema. Your thoracic surgeon can determine whether you would benefit from this procedure.

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